Thursday Salute to Originals: Designing the Experience of Food

It’s no secret that the fundamental goal of design is to shape the world around us in new and innovative ways. As designers, we set forth to enhance the human experience by creatively solving problems, tactfully tailoring aesthetics, and bringing forth something fresh and new. But while design enhances perceptual and spatial experiences, it less often impacts and alters our own instinctual behaviors, the most basic and involuntary of human actions.

Take the instinctual act of eating, for example, a tradition which many are gathering to celebrate on this Thanksgiving Day.  No matter the setting, the type of food, or the company, food is consumed in generally the same way: put food in mouth, chew, swallow, repeat. However, it is this involuntary habit – the primeval act of eating – that Marije Vogelzang designs. Instead of focusing on the appearance of the food or the interior atmosphere in which it is consumed, Vogelzang emphasizes the visceral act of satiating hunger, highlighting how you eat, how you experience the food, how you ingest something. Below are a couple of our favorite examples of Vogelzang’s food “designs” that highlight and shape the art (and instinct) of consumption.

Sharing Dinner

Food Design Meal by Artist Marije Vogelzang

Using a tablecloth to create a tent-like enclosure, Vogelzang forces a separation of head and body, while facilitating a physical connection to others at the dinner table. Forced to eat though slits in this continuous suspended sheet (almost like a harness), each person’s movements are restricted, and impact others at the table. Here, pouring yourself a glass of wine or taking a bit of your meal isn’t a solo experience. Each action (even ones that may be instinctual) will affect others at the table. The movements and habitual eating tendencies of each diner become fluid, almost like a waves in the sea, and are felt and shared by all. The meal is less about eating, and more about understanding and experiencing how other diners consume their food.

Eating on the Beat

Eating on the Beat Art Installation

Drum Synchronized Dining Experience

Typically, there is no rhyme or reason to how we put food into our mouths. We need food to survive, so when we’re hungry, down the hatch it goes. But, typically, no one is timing how many seconds pass between bites, how long it takes to cut your meat, how quickly you slurp the soup from your spoon. In this event, Vogelzang eliminates instinctual timing of ingestion, and instead interjects a strict, and somewhat stressful, eating regimen.

Allowing bites of specific food only to be taken to each and every beat of a drum, the solo act of satisfying one’s basic feeling of hunger is taken away here, leaving the diner to eat on an independent schedule unrelated to their own personal needs. So finished chewing or not, full or not, you are forced to eat as a victim of the beat, not as a human simply satiating a basic need. With everyone tasting and chewing the exact same bite of food at the exact same time, the act of eating becomes regimented, yet communal, creating a whole new dynamic to consuming nourishment.

While we’re not sure if you’ll find these food experience “designs” at to a restaurant near you any time soon, they do call attention to instinctual habits that often go unnoticed. It just goes to show how faceted design can be, and how tactful thought, creativity (and a lot of delicious food!) can impact not only our perceptual and spatial experiences, but our involuntary and most basic human tendencies as well.

Image credits: Marije Vogelzang